How Is Divorcing with a Special Needs Child Different?
While most people realize that divorcing with minor children and figuring out time sharing issues can be a difficult and complicated situation, when a couple shares a special needs child, special considerations often need to be taken into account by both the couple and the attorney that they work with, as we discuss in detail below.
Short and Long-Term Planning
Reportedly, the rate of divorce amongst couples with special needs children is around 85 percent, indicating just how important this issue is. While no divorce proceeding is identical to another, the difference with couples who share a special needs child involves not only short-term planning while the child is a minor, but also often planning and providing for the long-term realities of the child’s disability, well into adulthood. This is especially important when the child has a complex or severe disability.
There are other considerations as well: If the child is autistic or has a sensory processing issue, they may find it difficult to transition between homes. In addition, one parent’s home or personality might be better suited to meet the child’s needs. This also applies to financial needs, which might be higher given any additional expenses for therapies, private tutoring, medical expenses, and others.
Pre-Need Directives, Including Guardianships
In most states—including Florida—what matters is what is in the best interests of the child, but what about a child who needs a lifetime of assistance? Couples may need to plan for a guardianship, General Durable Power of Attorney, and/or a Health Care Proxy. While the parents can indicate their preferences for these decisions and documents, after the age of 18, the child also has a certain amount of say over whether to set these up, who is named, and if/when they are revoked.
Florida’s Chapter 744 within the statutes is considered to be Florida’s “guardianship statute.” A guardianship or co-guardianship is often established if the child does not have the capacity to make its own decisions. In Florida, adult guardianship is usually warranted when no less restrictive alternative (such as durable power of attorney, trust, health care surrogate, or another pre-need directive) is found by the court to be appropriate. While some parents like to pick one specific parent to act as the legal guardian, in other circumstances, they may not, but still want to be assured that they will continue to have an active role in their child’s life.
Florida Divorce Attorney
If you are contemplating or in the process of obtaining a divorce and are concerned about your child’s future, speak with one of our experienced Florida divorce attorneys at the Arwani Law Firm, PLLC today to find out how we can help you plan so that you and your family are taken care of and protected.